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Saturday, November 21, 2015

John Pilger on Paris attacks, root causes of terrorism and what we can do about it




In transmitting President Richard Nixon's orders for a "massive" bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, "Anything that flies on everything that moves". 

As Barack Obama wages his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Francois Hollande promises a "merciless" attack on that ruined country, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger's murderous honesty.
As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery - including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields - I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again.
A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today's Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.
According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of "fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders". Once Nixon's and Kissinger's B-52 bombers had gone to work as part of "Operation Menu", the west's ultimate demon could not believe his luck.
The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They leveled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left giant necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable.
A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors "froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told... That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over."
A Finnish Government Commission of Inquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the "first stage in a decade of genocide". What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.
ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair's invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of at least 700,000 people - in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.
Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda - like Pol Pot's "jihadists" - seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. "Rebel" Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable.
A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote, "The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy - and in particular our Middle East wars - had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here."
ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington, London and Paris who, in conspiring to destroy Iraq, Syria and Libya, committed an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in "our" societies, making accomplices of those who suppress this critical truth.
It is 23 years since a holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive "sanctions" on the Iraqi population - ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege.
Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, "blocked" - from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.
Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. "The children's vaccines", he said, "were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction".
The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq - much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office - blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.
Under a bogus "humanitarian" Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society's infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water.
"Imagine," the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, "setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable."
Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. "I was instructed," Halliday said, "to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults."
A study by the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 "excess" deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, "Is the price worth it?" Albright replied, "We think the price is worth it."
In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as "Mr. Iraq", told a parliamentary selection committee, "[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live."  When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. "I feel ashamed," he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. "We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence," he said, "or we'd freeze them out."
Last year, a not untypical headline in the Guardian read: "Faced with the horror of Isis we must act." The "we must act" is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC's Newsnight as an "apologist for Saddam". In 2003, Hain backed Blair's invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a "fringe issue".
Here was Hain demanding "air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support" for those "facing genocide" in Iraq and Syria. This will further "the imperative of a political solution". The day Hain's article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce.
Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria? Instead, there is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Hollande, Obama and their "coalition of the willing" as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They seem to relish their own violence and stupidityso much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally,  the government in Syria. 
This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:
"In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces... a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals... a necessary degree of fear... frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention... the CIA and SIS should use... capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension."
That was written in 1957, although it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. In 2013, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that "two years before the Arab spring", he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. "I am going to tell you something," he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, "I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria... Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate... This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned."
The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west - Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and now Russia. The obstacle is Turkey, an "ally" and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian "rebels", including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.
A truce - however difficult to negotiate and achieve - is the only way out of this maze; otherwise, the atrocities in Paris and Beirut will be repeated. Together with a truce, the leading perpetrators and overseers of violence in the Middle East  -- the Americans and Europeans - must themselves "de-radicalise" and demonstrate a good faith to alienated Muslim communities everywhere, including those at home.
There should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region's most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.
More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq, and the Nato and "coalition" crimes in Libya and Syria.
With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger's latest self-serving tome has been released with its satirical title, "World Order". In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a "key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century".
Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his "statecraft".  Only when "we" recognise the war criminals in our midst and stop denying ourselves the truth will the blood begiin to dry.
John Pilger . 







Sunday, November 15, 2015

'Isis in Paris'—By Tariq Ali



So ISIS has claimed the attacks as a response to France bombing the 'caliphate' in the Middle East. That Hollande/Valls are warmongers is beyond dispute . Ironically they were preparing to topple the Assad regime (till Washington insisted on a delay) which would have made them ISIS allies in the region. In fact the bulk of the opposition in Syria regard Assad as the primary contradiction and were also hoping the West would deliver another regime change. Had they done so a new civil war would have erupted between rival jihadi groups and who knows which of them the US/EU would have supported.

ISIS has hit the French capital and killed over a hundred citizens with double that number injured. I know the West does the same and, in fact, kills tens of thousands, but this clash of fundamentalisms leads nowhere. The West is NOT morally superior to the jihadis. Why is a public execution with a sword worse than an indiscriminate drone attack? Neither can nor should be supported. 

The point has often been made that both al Qaeda and ISIS are the result of imperial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and this is undoubtedly the case, but its not enough. The suicide of secular nationalism and the impotence of the tiny progressive groups as a result of both local repression and decline in mass support has to be taken into account. This process has pushed the Saudi regime to the fore and both al-Qaida and ISIS are under the strong influence of Wahhabiism which is a tiny minority within Sunni Islam.

There are three important pre-requisites to re-stabilising the region:
end of Western support to the extended Saudi royal family; end of all Western intervention in the region; a single Israeli/Palestinian state with equal rights for all its citizens. As long as this doesn't happen, political freaks and monsters will continue to proliferate.

Nothing justifies the killing of innocents in Paris or in any city of the Arab East.

By Tariq Ali / 14 November 2015 


Tariq Ali






Tuesday, November 10, 2015

HISTORY MAN by Rowan Cahill


I have before me a copy of the latest book by John TognoliniA History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir, Part One: Other People’s Wars (2015). This is not a  brief title, and had the book come via a mainstream publisher and gone through the hands of a marketing person, rather than  the ebook self-publishing manner in which John publishes (this is his fourth book), it would no doubt have had a less cumbersome title, maybe just A History Man’s Past. But John does not operate this way, and if I was asked to name a favourite Australian radical/commentator/author, I would probably bypass the famous and the well-known and nominate ‘John Tognolini’. I’ll return to the ‘why’ of this later.

First, A History Man’s Past. The ‘history man’ of the title is John. He has a passion for history from a leftist perspective. Employment-wise and professionally, he is a secondary school history teacher in rural NSW (Australia). This book is a collection of his writings, and interviews he has conducted, on the theme of war and militarisation, exploring why it is that Australia has been at war for much of its time as a nation as the junior partner of either Britain or the United States. As the reader soon learns, war is part of the Tognolini’s family. Four of his uncles went to World War 1, the youngest, his namesake ‘John/Jack’, on the Western Front aged sixteen or seventeen, a boy-soldier who lied about his age to enlist. Gallipoli veteran Andrew Tognolini died shortly after the war. 

For author John, war is nothing to glorify, no height of nobility as currently being evangelised by Australian war-propagandists bankrolled by multi-millions of dollars of government and corporate money to commemorate/celebrate World War 1.  Rather, Tognolini’s take on war is it is a human tragedy, not only about carnage and slaughter but also of hardships and sufferings and traumas for those on the home-front, and later for many of the front-liners who return home and struggle to live in the aftertime of ‘peace’. Constantly in Tognolini’s work there are the shadows of the geopolitics of war, and the politicians who engineer ‘war’, these latter mostly unblooded martial enthusiasts.

A History Man’s Past is a welcome contribution to the small body of Australian anti-war writing, a corpus that is overwhelmed by the tsunami of pro-war literature that flows from the presses of mainstream publishers, helping fuel Australia’s ongoing participation in other people’s wars and  legitimise increasing military budgets and expenditures. As few Australians seem pause and  question………not enough money for health, education, pensions, but a bottomless bucket for ‘war’?   

However, this does not explain my liking for John Tognolini as a dissident/radical. His latest book is only part of the answer.  The full reason lies in the way Tognolini operates; in a self-directed way. He makes his own spaces for dissident interventions and comment, demonstrating a media savvy that was/is no doubt helped by his academic studies; he has a First Class Honours degree in Communications from the University of Technology, Sydney, gained at a time when the institution had a reputation for producing independent journalists/communicators.  Tognolini  publishes his own books. Since 2006 he has run a massive website/blog (Tog’s Place.Com) as a platform for his own writings and commentaries, and also as an alternative leftist news, information and cultural site. The site takes its name from the Cobb and Co way-station run by his Italian grandfather and his Australia-born grandmother (from English/Irish convict parentage) near Castlemaine, Victoria, during the 19th century. Tognolini has also been involved in community radio since 1987, and with the socialist newspaper Green Left Weekly since 1990. He has produced radio documentaries for ABC Radio National/RN.

Tognolini’s independence as an intellectual/communicator is rooted in his employment background;  before becoming a school teacher in 2000, he variously worked as a labourer, scaffolder, rigger, dogman, railway fettler, and painter and docker, and whilst in these employments was a trade unionist. This long and varied employment background means that the language of Tognolini is from the world of public communication, and not from school-to-academia niche worlds; his long and deep immersion in the labouring workforce also means he developed strong self-respect and individuality that have helped him resist/escape the cap-in-hand-defer-to-intellectual-power-elites mode of conduct that tends to come with professional writer training and with academia. 

Involvement in unionism, militant unionism in Tognolini’s case, led him to make two documentary films that are worth chasing down, one (1992) on the deregistration of the Builders Labourers Federation in Victoria, the other (with Frances Kelly) on the three-month occupation/strike by militant trade unions of Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, 1989, in which John was involved. Both substantial films are available on Youtube.

Tognolini does not need peer- reviewing or permission to speak, nor does he need the approbation of pecking orders to comment and create his brand of opposition and dissidence. He does not agonise as to where to act, where to ‘say’. He simply goes out and does/say it, and as I said earlier, makes his own spaces. There is a valuable message, and example, here that I regard highly, and respect. 

Rowan Cahill, 10 November 2015 Radical Sydney 





A History Man’s Past & Other People’s Stories: A Shared Memoir. Part One: Other People’s Wars is a shared history in many ways. It’s where part of my story reflects the people I’ve interviewed with my media work over thirty years.

My interview with retired Australian SAS Warrant Officer Dr Brian Day, who served with the US Special Forces in Vietnam and Cambodia. He was also a founding member of the Australian Vietnam Veterans Association. I interviewed him in 1992 on Anzac, Racism, and the Madness of the Vietnam War.


My interview with Stan Goff, a retired US Army Special Forces Master Sergeant and Vietnam Veteran who served in the US Army up until Haiti in 1996. He became involved in Military Families Against War that was formed when George W.Bush invaded Iraq in 2003.
My question to Veteran Journalist, Writer and Filmmaker John Pilger, at a public meeting in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains about history being memory in 2008.


My question to Activist, Academic, Writer and Linguist Noam Chomsky, and coverage of his Sydney Press Conference, when he visited Australia in 1995, campaigning for an independent East Timor, then under the murderous Indonesian Occupation.


A shared history in another way too, I argue here that Australia’s Frontier Wars against our Indigenous Peoples should be recognised in the Australian War Memorial.


I also argue against former prime minister Tony Abbott’s $90 million dollar John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux, France and highlight the $400 million spent on the Centenary of Australia’s involvement in World War One as a major act of hypocrisy, when one in ten of our nation’s homeless are War Veterans.


This book is also an attempt to answer that big question, why has Australia been at War so much in so many places normally as junior partner to Britain or the United States?

John Tognolini 16th September 2015

just click on the link available as eBook: AUD$5.00

Paperback: AUD$24.00
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